Native American Assimilation with the perm causes genocide
Thomas, Author for St. Petersburg Times, 90 Lois, St. Petersburg Times, “Genocide Still Threatens Native Americans”, 29 March, Lexis
Although the genocide of the Jews has been eliminated, the genocide of the American Indian continues. The American Indians are constantly subjected to historical presentations that cruelly remind them that they are the beaten people, the conquered nations. Archaeologists and historians refer to Indian culture in the past tense, rejecting the notion that the Indian people are still struggling to survive. Witness what is happening in Wisconsin with Chippewa treaty rights, or what is happening on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, the land called "Big Mountain." These are real situations, with real people, not re-enactments from a history book or parts of a Hollywood script. In January 1989, a new federal law went into effect. The law made genocide illegal. Part of the definition of genocide, as described in the law, reads, "subjects the group to conditions of life that are intended to cause the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part . " Denying the American Indians the right to live on their traditional lands, to follow their religion as they have for centuries, to deny their children the right to be proud of their heritage all these are examples of genocide. Ask the elders on Big Mountain in Arizona and they'll tell you about genocide. Ask the Navajo grandmother who wants to stay in her traditional hogan instead of government provided housing, she'll tell you about the destruction of her culture, about the need for the lands, the traditions, the way of life, to survive. Ask the U.S. government about Big Mountain, they'll talk of mining interests and doing what's best for the Indian. Ask the American Indians their opinion of the government's policy of providing for "the good of the Indian people." There are no gas chambers for the Indians to face. Their gas chambers were the U.S. Cavalryand the continued perpetuation of stereotypes and governmental intervention. There are no concentration camps, only Indian reservations. There are no secret police or storm troopers, but there is the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Jew and the Indian have both suffered hatred and discrimination for centuries. The difference is that for the Jew, the self-image is one of a proud people able to rise above steep odds. The Jewish child does not have any problem with self-worth or self-esteem. For the Indian child, however, self-worth and self-esteem are virtually non-existent. He is constantly subjected to subtle degradation via the entertainment media, educational curriculum, and society attitude. The Indian child is constantly reminded that he is the "beaten people." He is the "savage," the "pagan," the "bad guy." He is not told that his people enabled the first colonists to survive, that his people (the Aztecs) gave the world a calendar more accurate than the one used today, that his people were responsible for the conception of the U.S. Constitution. Sociologists will tell you that self-worth and self-esteem are directly related to the incidences of substance abuse, alcoholism and suicide. The American Indian population has the highest unemployment, rate of alcoholism and rate of youth suicides, and the lowest life expectancy of any racial group in this country. This is what the practice of assimilation has done for the American Indian. On the other hand, Indian nations that have adopted programs reinforcing traditional teachings and lifestyles have chronicled remarkable improvements in the alcoholism and suicide ratios on those reservations. The American Indian wept along with the Jewish people for the horror of the Holocaust. The American Indian wept for the blacks over the sickness of racial bigotry. But who weeps for the American Indian? Tearsare not enough now. The American Indian needs more than sympathy. The past cannot be changed, but the future can be. If our educational system needs to be changed to correct the distortions and stereotypes, then let's do it. If governmental policies and bureaucratic programs hurt rather than help, let's eliminate them. If the attitude of the general public is discriminatory and racist, let's change it. Let's make a difference in the lives of the American Indians, just as they made a difference in the lives of the first colonists. Our guest columnist is secretary-treasurer of the American Indian Issues and Action Committee in St. Petersburg.